Long before Linus Omark ever pulled on an Edmonton Oilers sweater, there was a distinct buzz surrounding the highly skilled Swede in the heads of many an Oiler fan. Once Omark’s jaw dropping shootout goal against Switzerland became a YouTube sensation, fans everywhere were letting their imaginations run wild on what type of player they would be watching in the very near future.
Fast forward to December 10, 2010, Linus Omark’s NHL debut against the Tampa Bay Lightning. After earning his first NHL point on a second period power play goal by Tom Gilbert, Omark was sent out by Tom Renney as Edmonton’s third shooter in the shootout. With the game on the line and Rexall Place buzzing with anticipation, the young Swedish showman did not disappoint. He did not pullout his “trademark” move but in the end it didn’t matter. His centre ice spin-o-rama, stick slamming shootout winner sent the building into hysteria!!! Not only did Omark become an instant fan favourite but his teammates seemed blown away. Most of the players looked like little kids in awe of what they just witnessed…pretty impressive for a first NHL game.
During the next 50 games of Omark’s rookie season, he had his ups and downs. It was apparent that his overall game still needs work but the kid seems to be a special talent. His effort is not consistent enough on a nightly basis but I feel that has to do more to do with a lack of maturity and consistent ice time with skilled linemates. One does have to earn their ice time but it is up to any coaching staff to ensure you are putting your players in a situation that they will be successful in…playing with the likes of Colin Fraser, Ryan O’Marra, Ryan Jones, J.F. Jaques or Andrew Cogliano, would not be that situation. He has a very special skill set that should not be wasted playing at times on the fourth line, unless it is to send a message, or with players that are simply not capable of complimenting him as a linemate. With the Oilers current personal, he can fit anywhere in the top 9 and playing on the third line with fellow Swede Magnus Paajarvi and Shawn Horcoff seems like the best place for him heading into the 2011-2012 campaign. This will give him the opportunity to play with good players 5 on 5 and still work on his overall game but the coaching staff must ensure he is on the power play…be it the first or second unit. He has shown the ability to run the power play effectively from the boards and if Ales Hemsky continues to struggle on the man advantage this season, Omark should get the first look at replacing him on the top unit.
While his defensive zone coverage is far from textbook, his ability to think the game at the other end of the ice is at another level. There really seems to be no play that Linus would not be willing to at least consider, if not attempt once. He routinely battles in corners against players twice his size and while he doesn’t win them all, if the puck is around he is there. Omark is a flat out puck hound and that is not the norm for players his size. Many small statured players stay out of the corners, where as Omark will not only go into the corners but he will come out of the corner dragging the puck under his skate, which he did on three separate occasions last season. The kid is very creative and clearly is not lacking in confidence the department. Linus Omark is not your run of the mill player and because of that the Oilers would be wise to show patience when dealing with deficiencies in his game.
I find him to be a breath of fresh air and he’s the type of player I was hoping this organization would be able to find at some point during their rebuild. For a number of years, the Edmonton Oilers have been missing a player that wants to be that difference maker at crunch time and have a flair for the dramatic. They feel they found two such players in drafting Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle but it seems like they may have found another in Linus Omark.
2011-2012 Prediction: 8 G - 35 A - 43 Pts